Air Defense: Starstreak Gets Smart



p> April 2, 2008: Britain has upgraded the electronics and guidance system for its short range Starstreak anti-aircraft missile [PHOTO]. The 37 pound missile is fired from a sealed container, which is usually mounted on a vehicle, ship or helicopter. There is also a shoulder launched version. The missile rapidly accelerates to supersonic speed (nearly one kilometer a second) and releases three warheads. Each of these weighs two pounds and contains about a pound of explosives and a guidance system. The maximum range of the system is seven kilometers, so the target only has a few seconds to react. The warheads are meant to make a direct hit. At high speed, and with a tungsten front end, the warheads are devastating even against armored personnel carriers (but not tanks).

Starstreak entered service in 1998, and was originally mounted on about 280 vehicles, but that has been reduced to 210. Eight systems were exported to South Africa, and the manufacturer has been trying to sell them to the U.S. for use as anti-aircraft systems for the AH-64 helicopter gunship. Armored vehicles carry an eight missile launcher, while unarmored vehicles carry a three missile launcher (which can also be used separately from the vehicle.)

One drawback of Starstreak is that it is laser guided, and requires a trained operator to keep the missile on target. The upgraded Starstreak II has automatic target tracking, which makes it easier for a less skilled operator to score a hit.

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